Can Long Beach State Pull off Another Upset over No. 6 Louisville?
For those of you who watched Long Beach State down the then-No. 9 Pittsburgh Panthers, you know how dangerous the 49ers can be.
For those of you who do not know about Long Beach State, let me explain.
In the past two seasons, the 49ers went to the Big West Conference Tournament championship game. Both times, they lost close games to UC Santa Barbara.
Last year, Long Beach State went 14-2 in the Big West and won the conference's regular season title. In December, it nearly upset North Carolina, ultimately losing 96-91.
This year, the 49ers made their mark early by beating Pitt. But since that win, they are 1-2, with losses at San Diego State and Montana.
On Monday night, they play at Louisville in their second of five games against top 25 teams. Maybe Long Beach State will be able to set off some more fireworks on the national stage.
Here are the keys to tonight's game for both Long Beach State and Louisville.
Keys for Long Beach State
The three-headed monster
For the past three seasons, Casper Ware, Larry Anderson and T.J. Robinson have all averaged double digits in scoring. This year, they lead the team once again with 18.8 PPG, 14.6 PPG and 14.4 PPG, respectively.
Having multiple scoring threats is extremely valuable, especially when going up against a premier team.
The 49ers will most likely need all three of them to come up big if they are going to hand Louisville its first loss of the season.
In addition to Ware, Anderson and Robinson, junior James Ennis and senior Eugene Phelps are also having good years, averaging 9.4 PPG and 8.4 PPG, respectively.
Free throw shooting
Overall, Long Beach State is a solid free throw shooting team at 72.8 percent. However, the 49ers have missed free throws down the stretch in a couple of road games this year.
They shot 3-for-6 in the final four minutes against San Diego State and 3-for-8 in the final three minutes against Montana.
It will be a tough environment at Louisville, and this game could end up being decided by free throw shooting.
Take care of the ball
Possibly Long Beach State's weakest point in the young season is that it turns over the ball 14.5 times per game.
Louisville is known for forcing turnovers, and the Cardinals are averaging eight steals per game so far this season.
Keys for Louisville
Who will score?
Louisville's defense has been there in each of its first five games, but the offense has struggled. After scoring 83 points against Tennessee-Martin, Louisville is averaging just 62.5 PPG in its last four games and 56.5 PPG in its last two games.
So far, Louisville has not had to play a team with a very powerful offense, so the Cardinals lack of offensive production has not been a big issue.
However, Long Beach State is the type of team that could score more against Louisville than any other team has this season.
The scoring can come from one person or from a group of players. The Cardinals have a handful of players that have the potential to be good scorers.
Who will win tonight's game?
Louisville is averaging eight steals per game and six blocks per game. With Long Beach State having some trouble taking care of the ball, the Cardinals should look to get closer to 10 steals.
Long Beach State has multiple players that are prone to turning over the ball.
Control the glass
Louisville is averaging 42 rebounds per game and has outrebounded each of its opponents. Many college basketball games can be won and lost on the glass. Long Beach State has solid size for a mid-major and could potentially give the Cardinals a fight on the boards.
My Pick: As impressive as Long Beach State was in its win over Pitt, the way the 49ers played against Montana leaves the chances for another upset in question.
A main reason for why Pitt has not lived up to its preseason expectations is because the Panthers do not play great defense. That is also why Long Beach State was able to march over the Panthers and score 86 points.
The 49ers will be facing much better defense tonight.
Louisville's opponents are averaging 46 PPG on the year and just 40.5 PPG in the Cardinals' last two games.
If Long Beach State figures out the Louisville defense and is able to score upwards of 70 points, its chances for a win increase tremendously.
However, that might be too difficult a task for Dan Monson's squad.
Louisville 66, Long Beach State 60
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